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Health and Fitness News

When Food’s No Longer Fun

Could it be an eating disorder? Here’s what to watch for.

You know food is essential for life. It provides the nutrients your body needs to function. It’s also a treat, with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks coming in all sorts of flavors, colors, textures, and smells. Some of your favorite memories may also involve food—eating around the table with family and friends at holidays, parties, and special events.

With the delicious variety of foods and memories of good times around the table, eating should be an enjoyable part of every day. For many people, however, food is no longer something enjoyable. For these individuals, food becomes an unhealthy obsession that leads to all kinds of eating disorders. When this happens, eating is no longer a way to nourish the body, but a way to try to gain control over life.

What are the most common eating disorders and what are their symptoms? You’re about to find out.

#1: Anorexia Nervosa

One of the most well-known eating disorders, anorexia nervosa occurs when someone is so terrified of gaining weight that they severely restrict their calorie intake and only eat certain foods. They may make themselves vomit, use laxatives, binge eat, and exercise compulsively in their effort to lose weight. People with anorexia nervosa typically have a low body weight and are obsessed with food, calories, dieting, and fat grams. They think they’re overweight when they’re not.

#2: Bulimia Nervosa

Also known as binging and purging, bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by a cycle of overeating followed by self-induced vomiting, laxatives, fasting, diuretics, or excessive exercise to reverse the effects of food. During a bulimic episode, an individual will experience a complete lack of control over how much they’re eating. While not as concerned with weight loss as someone with anorexia, someone with bulimia is also obsessed with body weight and self-image.

#3: Binge Eating Disorder

Similar to bulimia but without behaviors to compensate for overeating (purging), binge eating disorder is characterized by recurrent episodes of extreme overeating in a short period of time. People with binge eating disorder feel a loss of control while eating and afterwards experience feelings of shame, disgust, and guilt.

#4: Orthorexia Nervosa

While not as well known, orthorexia is on the rise. It’s good to desire to eat healthily, but healthy eating can become an obsession. A type of obsessive-compulsive disorder, people with orthorexia seek control over food and their bodies. They obsess about healthy foods and feel a compulsion to avoid what they determine to be unhealthy foods. These individuals will spend hours planning meals and researching healthy foods, and if a food is prepared or grown a certain way or contains a certain ingredient, they will refuse to eat it.

#5: Rumination Disorder

When a cow eats, it is in two phases. First, the cow chews and swallows their food. The food then mixes with digestive acids and returns (ruminates) to the cow’s mouth, where the cow chews it again. A rumination disorder is when a human being does the same thing. After chewing and swallowing, the person with rumination disorder regurgitates their food within 30 minutes to chew a second time. Then they’ll either re-swallow the food or spit it out.

#6: Pica

Associated with other mental health conditions, pica is an eating disorder in which people want to eat strange things that aren’t food. Examples include dirt, hair, paint chips, soap, pebbles, string, chalk, or charcoal. This can also be a sign that the individual is missing something in their diet.

#7: Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Abbreviated ARFID, avoidant or restrictive food intake disorder is now seen in teens and adults, though it’s more common among young kids. People with ARFID avoid or refuse foods because they don’t enjoy eating or because they dislike certain tastes, textures, colors, smells, or temperatures. This disorder is far worse than being a picky eater.